Trusting Your Gut

College. There seems to be an endless supply of blogs written and articles posted on the subject. It has been the topic of most of my waking thoughts for the past four years of high school. However rather anticlimactically, one day you receive your last decision notification, and just like that your options for the next four years of your life are laid out in front of you. The years of hard work and having angst about how to best position yourself are over and you are left with nothing more than a colossal decision to make.

This has been my experience. There are many seniors who apply Early Decision and are accepted; some may choose not to attend college or travel a variety of other paths. I however, was left with this decision to make. I am decidedly indecisive, so this was far from simple for me.

I went to an unlikely place for help. Math. Math has never been my friend but I thought maybe it could help me decide which school was best by “grading them” the same way teachers have graded me my whole life. I began by listing categories of importance such as academic rigor, financial burden, social life, location, etc. I then weighted them out of a hundred by order of importance, for example I weighted academic rigor heavier than location. I then ranked them in each of these categories out of ten which left one school with the best grade, the school I should have liked the most.

But here’s the thing. I’ve never been very good at math. And grades are given too much weight. It wasn’t until I visited the schools that I realized my mistake. I was overthinking. Truthfully, the single best piece of advice I can give you on the subject of decision making, with college or anything else, is trust your gut. I was fortunate enough to get to actually visit the schools I was considering, which gave me a very good insight into the feel of the school, however there are some other ways that I recommend if you do not have the chance or ability to do an in person visit.

  • Reach out to a student (or a variety of students) you know who attend the universities (ideally not through the admissions office as they have a vested interest). This for me was one of the most important pieces of deciding. It is the students there who will give you the full, honest, unbridled truth on what the actual experience of a student in that school is like.
  • Attend nearby admissions events. There are two important points of view when it comes to information gathering on a school, the things it doesn’t want you to know about, and the things it wants to brag about. Admissions events are a chance to let schools brag to you.

At the end of the day, all you have to rely on is your gut reaction. It is unquestionably a stressful time and it can feel like a make it or break it decision. But your decision is not necessarily final. My father transferred twice, all three of my brothers have transferred at least once, and my mother transferred once. In today’s academic environment I do believe it is true that the school you will be most successful in is the one that is the best fit. “Fit” can’t be calculated with fancy math, and it isn’t just one factor. It is the way the school feels to you, and that is what the decision process should be all about.

– Oliver